When snow falls, as it does occasionally here in Cambridge, I take the train to work. So, I found myself on the Porter Square, Cambridge, train platform one morning last week, snow quietly falling at the rate of about 1” per hour, waiting for the 6:55 train outbound to Concord.
Before leaving the house for the 20 minute walk to the station, I’d checked my commuter rail passenger app… No surprise, there were alerts – at about 4:30 am, they’d posted an alert indicating that there were delays and cancellations on the inbound line and that train #401, the train prior to mine, was delayed… and then cancelled.
Happily, my train #491 was showing “on time.” Perfect. So, I left the house and walked to the train station, arriving a few minutes early. A few others also were waiting for the #491.
6:50 am. .. we checked our phones. Our train was still showing on time; the announcements on the LED message strip were repeating (and repeating and repeating) the much earlier announcements about incoming trains and the preceding, first outbound train.
7:00 am… our train still showing on time… messages about earlier trains still repeating. 7:15 am… still on time. 7:25…still showing on time, now 30 minutes late.
I had scheduled an 8:00 am call and I knew that, even if the train arrived NOW, I’d be late for that call. With one last hopeful look down the tracks, I climbed the 30 steps back to street level and walked home, slipping on the snow and falling to the pavement once, for good measure.
If I were a more frequent rail rider, I probably could have figured out that the equipment for the delayed or cancelled inbound trains was the same equipment planned for my outbound train. But, nobody waiting on the platform at 7:30 am had figured that out. We just expected, naively, that “on time” meant “on time.”
The chorus to one of my favorite modern country music songs, “No News”, ends with: “I prefer a bad excuse to no news,” like a switch is buried deep in snow. A diesel engine will not go. An engineer’s late to the shed. The signal lights are frozen red. I prefer a bad excuse… to no news… or to old news that’s repeated and repeated long after anyone cares. I get it… stuff breaks down… and, as your commuter rail client, if the sale or delivery is late, just give me SOMETHING to work with, quickly, so I can make my next best move.
Nick Miller trains bankers to attract and expand relationships with businesses. More profitable relationships, faster. He is President of Clarity Advantage based in Concord, MA. Additional articles on Clarity’s web site.
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